23 Apr 2011

Report questions SAS involvement in detentions

2:12 pm on 23 April 2011

The Government's denial that SAS soldiers arrest and transfer prisoners to authorities in Afghanistan who could abuse or torture them has come under question.

A report by Metro magazine contradicts the claim that New Zealand soldiers have no direct involvement in arresting prisoners.

Metro journalist Jon Stephenson says he's spoken to an SAS soldier who captured a insurgent last year and handed him over to the Afghan National Army.

He says the soldier intervened when the Afghans wanted to kill the prisoner.

Mr Stephenson says that in a separate incident the SAS detained innocent workers during a raid on Christmas Eve, before handing them over to the Afghan secret police.

The men were, however, later released.

Under international conventions, New Zealand cannot transfer prisoners to countries where they might be subject to torture.

Defence Minister Wayne Mapp says he asked for an investigation of the raids mentioned in the report, and says it was the Afghan authorities, not the SAS, who detained the prisoners.

He says he trusts the assurance given by former Defence Force chief Lieutenant-General Jerry Mateparae that the SAS has not been involved in detaining and transferring prisoners to Afghan authorities.

"I believe General Mateparae. He made close inquiry on this issue and I believe him.

"I cannot believe that the SAS would not be totally upfront with General Mateparae."